Campos de Esperanza (Fields of Hope)
Campos de Esperanza (Fields of Hope) is a project in Mexico that involves multiple stakeholders in government, the private sector and civil society working together to reduce child labor in migrant agricultural communities, particularly in the coffee and sugarcane sectors in Veracruz and Oaxaca. The project will link children and youth to existing educational programs and refer vulnerable households to existing government programs to improve income and reduce the need for child labor. Campos de Esperanza will also strengthen the Mexican government’s capacity to prevent and manage Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown causes (CKDu) and improve working conditions based on regional and international best practices, in partnership with the private sector and community-based groups.
Approximately 773,000 children work in the production of agricultural goods in Mexico, many of whom are migrant laborers from indigenous communities. Children travel with their entire families, across the country following agricultural harvest cycles, in some cases returning to their communities of origin only after long periods of absence. Existing labor law is inconsistently applied or infrequently protects these workers. Migrant children are more likely than non-migrant children to engage in work that often involves long working hours, use of sharp tools, extreme temperatures, handling pesticides, and carrying heavy loads. A significant percentage of children working in agriculture do not attend school, due in part to poor school infrastructure, long distances to reach schools, and limited educational opportunities to meet their needs, including indigenous language instruction. This situation contributes to a vicious circle that limits opportunity across generations.
ILAB has supported efforts in Mexico to combat child labor in agriculture since 2009. This project builds off this experience to provide education and protection to migrant families and their children engaged in hazardous and exploitive labor. In the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz, where sugar and coffee are produced, Campos de Esperanza targets children, youth and households from migrant agricultural communities engaged in or at high risk of engaging in child labor in these sectors.
To foster the positive change that will benefit these families, the project incorporates the involvement of different actors such as government agencies, schools, and employers so that children leave the field to pursue their education, including through bilingual education. The project will work with the government to utilize updated and improved tools to monitor and enforce laws related to child labor and agricultural work. It will also collaborate with participating business partners to increase their capacity to reduce child labor, refer families to government social programs, and remediate unacceptable conditions of work in their workplaces and supply chains.
The project’s approach also involves raising awareness to change families’ frequently held beliefs that child labor is either necessary or beneficial, and to make them aware of their rights under the law. The project works to refer families to viable education alternatives for their children. It strives to reduce demand for child labor among its chief users, small private landowners, and communal landowners who supply larger companies.